Sneeze & Sniffle: Ayurvedic Cold Care

Recently I've been surprised by how many people, when sharing with me that they have a cold, also tell me that they aren't doing anything to treat it. What's surprising to me is that we seem to have forgotten our easy, at home, natural tools for taking care of ourselves when we're feeling sick. With a basic understanding of Ayurvedic qualities and some simple practices, you can not only bolster your immunity to prevent the onset of a cold, but also shorten the duration and severity of a cold once it has set in. 

Ayurvedically we understand the common cold as an increase in the cool and moist qualities of kapha. These can manifest as congestion, mucous, and lethargy. The impairment of the digestive fire (agni) can lead to a feeling of being chilled and a loss of appetite.

Remedy #1: Tea!
Counter those cold, heavy qualities of kapha with a hot, steaming cup of tea. Ginger with its pungency and heating effect is a great ally to use in teas doing cold season. It reduces vata and kapha; targets the digestive, respiratory, and circulatory systems; stocks the digestive fire (agni), and it helps to clear mucoid plaque (āma) that may have accumulated in the channels of the body.

Cold Fighting Ginger Tea:

  • 1 inch Fresh Ginger Root, thin sliced

  • 1 Ceylon Cinnamon stick, or 1 tsp powder

  • 1 inch Lemongrass or

  • 1 Cardamom pod, or 1 pinch powder

Boil these herbs in filtered water for ~10 minutes. Strain, and add honey if you like, once the tea has cooled down to pinky-dipping temperature.

Remedy #2: Cut the cold, increase the heat!
Like increases like, and if you're suffering from a cold you don't want more of the cold, heavy quality. Remove all cold, heavy foods from your diet. This includes cold or iced beverages, dairy, heavy carbs, and sweets. Instead lighten your diet. Go for a spiced, brothy soup like my favorite Miso Soup, that special healing chicken soup your mom always made, or some other warm, easily digestible meal. Your digestive fire and your immunity will thank you.

Remedy #3: Steam!
So simple, so quick, and so forgotten in our arsenal of natural healing. Find a big pot, fill it up with water, and get it boiling. Once you have a nice rolling boil, take it off the stove, and then you can add 1-2 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil. Get comfy with a towel tented over your head and take slow, deep breaths. Keep your eyes closed, and bring in fresh air as needed during the steam. Stay for 5-10 minutes, or until the water ceases to steam.

Remedy #4: Boost your Immunity!
There are a number of lovely herbal supports for the immune system. At the first hint of a cold, Vitamin C, Zinc, or Echinacea (tincture) can be taken to up the immune system's responsiveness. Even better would be to support the immune system before you get sick. If cold season is moving through your area, Echinacea tincture taken for a couple days at a time can be very helpful. Turmeric with it's antibacterial properties, is a great spice to use regularly in your cooking as well.

Remedy #5: Rest!
Lastly, and most importantly, give your self permission to rest during times of illness. The body can do amazing healing work when given the time and space to do so. 
As spring approaches, and with it cold season, enjoy these natural tools to keep you healthy and feeling your best.